Bean and Pulse Production Paused by Flooding in Upper Burma

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 4 August 2015

RANGOON — Recent flooding in Burma is expected to have a long-term effect on the nation’s farmers as the harvest of beans and pulses will be delayed by several months, an industry association has warned.

Crops ordinarily grown after the year’s rice harvest will not be sown until at least December, delaying export of some of Burma’s most important sources of agricultural income, according to Min Ko Oo, secretary of the Myanmar Pulses, Beans and Sesame Seeds Merchants Association (MPBSSMA).

“We expect that after the flooding subsides, farmers will have to cultivate their paddy fields again and it will delay [other crops] for at least 60 days,” Min Ko Oo told The Irrawaddy.

In Upper Burma, the rice harvest is usually carried out around October, after which winter crops can be sown. Local demand coupled with export commitments, however, will leave farmers little choice but to begin anew on their damaged paddy fields, he said.

Beans and pulses are one of Burma’s biggest agricultural exports, just after rice. Neighboring India, the world’s largest producer and consumer of the crops, relies heavily on Burmese legumes and accounts for about 80 percent of exports. China, Taiwan and several other Asean nations also regularly purchase Burma’s beans and pulses.

Several varieties of mung bean, including the popular green gram, as well as pigeon peas are among the highest netting export crops for many farmers in the country’s central heartland, much of which has been pounded with rain for weeks and now sits idly underwater.

Min Ko Oo said that local consumption of beans and pulses is comparatively low in Burma, so exports will not need to be halted in order to meet local demand, as is the case with rice. The Myanmar Rice Federation on Monday requested that exports of the staple grain be put on hiatus until mid-September to protect consumers from price gouging on low-supply goods. Federation secretary Min Htet Aung told The Irrawaddy that a number of traders had already agreed to halt exports and had made some commitments to local relief efforts.

The delay in bean and pulse production is likely to have effects well into the next year, Min Ko Oo said, as farmers in Pegu, Irrawaddy, Magwe and Mandalay divisions will struggle to meet commitments to Indian traders. Prices, in turn, are expected to rise.

Within Burma, the recent flooding has already caused crippling price volatility as rice and oil sellers have reportedly jacked up prices in some areas, sometimes more than three times the standard market value.

Some measures have been taken—such as the proposed rice export ban and several subsidy schemes—to avoid severe price hikes on rice, though some merchants are still worried about the cost of other necessities such as cooking oil.

Thein Han, chairman of the Myanmar Cooking Oil Traders Association, said that flooding in Magwe Division—seat of the nation’s peanut industry—could have a mild impact on exports but was unlikely to disturb cooking oil availability as most local consumers rely on imported sesame, soybean and other vegetable oils.

Figures from the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Tuesday said more than 200,000 people have been affected by the recent flooding, which has damaged more than 426,000 acres of farmland and destroyed some 56,000 more.